There will be no repeat of Brighton at the 2015 World Cup when Japan stunned the Springboks. Rassie Erasmus’ team are in a different class to the Bok side beaten four years ago.
Japan have improved, but are still 20-30 points off the pace when it comes to the likes of South Africa and New Zealand.
Home support will be worth 10 points for Japan in Sunday’s quarter-final against the Boks, but when I compare the two teams, player for player, and collectively, there is no way Japan will win.
It’s not being arrogant or dismissive of what Japan achieved in the group stages. They played sensational rugby to beat Ireland and Scotland and all credit to them for the innovation and pace at which they have played at this tournament.
The Boks are a different prospect to Scotland and a better team than Ireland.
The love affair with Japan shouldn’t come at the expense of applauding the qualities of the Boks at this World Cup. The Boks were very good in dismantling Italy, they were breathtaking in the first 25 minutes against the hapless Canadians and ruthless in the opening 20 minutes against Namibia. They were also outstanding in the first 30 minutes against the All Blacks and showed their maturity as a team to fight back from 17-3 to 17-13 with 10 minutes to go against the world champions.
So many people have asked me if Japan have a chance and my emphatic response is that they don’t have a prayer if the match is played 15 versus 15 for the full 80 minutes.
The Boks simply have too much firepower up front and have enough of a threat among the backs. There is also the Cheslin Kolbe factor. He has been the backline player of the tournament.
I have been surprised at the bookies’ odds on all four quarter-final matches. The handicap on the Bok match is 14.5 points, which is being extremely generous to Japan. It should be 20-plus points.
The bookies have been as generous in the 12.5 point handicap against the All Blacks. In layman’s terms it means the bookies are expecting the All Blacks to beat Ireland by more than 13 points. I believe this match will be a one-score result, with either team good enough to get the win.
The All Blacks at this World Cup are not in the vintage of the 2015 champions. They are not significantly better than Ireland and they have struggled against the Irish in the last three Test matches played, two of which were won by Ireland.
The All Blacks don’t often doubt themselves, but Ireland’s recent success against them will be spooking their coaching staff this week.
If the bookies have shown Ireland a lack of respect, then they have given France way too much respect in a six-point handicap against Wales. The latter should win comfortably by double digits. Ditto England when they play Australia, despite the bookies predicting this match will end with a single digit victory for England.
@mark_keohane The Star